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At the Berlin Foreign Policy Forum this week, the importance of greater independence for Germany from the People’s Republic of China was once again a matter of intense debate. By contrast, Hong Kong’s head of government declared the opposite to be the ideal solution: John Lee wants to incorporate his city even more deeply into Mainland China. The economy and administration should continue to converge, he emphasized in his first keynote speech in the office of Chief Executive. He wants to systematically pursue the dissolution of his city’s special position.
Only when it comes to Covid has Hong Kong now taken a largely liberal path. After two years of strict regulations, there is hardly anything left of the panic about the spread of the disease – in stark contrast to the situation on the other side of the border.
Hong Kong apparently realized that it suffers more than any other metropolis from the loss of skilled workers and urgently needs to get its act together to avoid being left behind for good. Within two years, 140,000 people have left the city forever.
Such an exodus is not as easy for people in the People’s Republic. But an alternative is crystallizing more and more – moving to the countryside. Fabian Peltsch tells us the story of several dropouts, a story that already reduces a bit of stress just by reading it.
Hong Kong: compliant in principle
The long shadow of Beijing’s central government loomed over John Lee’s first keynote speech. Right at the beginning, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive once again thanked China’s President and Party Leader Xi Jinping for his words of encouragement when he took office. This would have been an understandable gesture if Lee had only taken office the day before. However, it has already been more than three and a half months since the former police chief took over the city’s administration.
The fact that Lee nevertheless immediately addressed warm words to the Party chief in Beijing before turning his attention to the city’s urgent problems may be interpreted as a ritualized fulfillment of duty as part of Hong Kong’s new political conformity. Despite months of fierce protests by millions of people, the city ultimately lost the autonomy it was promised until 2047, not to mention its democratic development, as it was contractually promised 25 years ago.
That Lee formulated the cornerstones of his policy in parallel with the Party Congress in Beijing, symbolizes Hong Kong’s forced close ideological ties to the People’s Republic. And as if Lee had already fully assimilated into the CP cadres, he delivered the longest keynote speech by a Hong Kong head of government since the city’s handover to China. He demanded the attention of his audience for a full two hours and 45 minutes.